5111 – Wk 3 Best Practices in DL

Web 2.0 Tools Impact on DL Learning Environment

Web 2.0 tools can potentially provide an increased access to knowledge through open educational resources.

Best Practices for DL Practitioners

The principles of online teaching or ‘best practices’ literature are similar to those from face-to-face settings based on the mutual emphasis placed on content area expertise, communication skills, and instructional design. Ones that resonate with me are:

Delivery (teaching and tools)

  1. Encouraging staff-student contact through practices that created an environment for interaction and communication. Stein and Glazer (2003) recommend that interactivity between student and instructor is fundamental to building community in the online environment.
  2. Encouraging active learning with assignments that encourage reflection and required students to relate course content material to their personal lives. This helps motivate student interest and encourage control over their own learning environment and is in line with theories of constructivism and engagement that allow students to choose assignments that are relevant, interesting and useful for them (Kearsley & Schneiderman, l999).
  3. Respecting diverse talents and ways of learning by incorporating various ways to present course material, design assignments and format assessment within an “open atmosphere” for learning. This indicates a genuine regard for the different learning styles of adult students and the “democratization” of the online learning environment. Confirmed by Diaz and Cartnal (l999) an awareness of different learning styles aids in the instructional design and ultimately the retention of students in online courses.
  4. Use engaging, imaginative and flexible tools to engage learners. You want to avoid repackaging traditional content online. Having learners read through their entire course content uploaded online does not embrace the essence of e-learning or stimulate creativity. Instead of repackaging think about using e-learning in an engaging, imaginative and flexible way where learners can benefit from interactive tools such as video, blogging and online discussion.
  5. Use both synchronous and asynchronous activities to engage learners in more collaborative and more reflective activities. The variety of activities that are now possible online makes it possible to create many types of effective learning environments. Sometimes there is nothing better than a real-time interactive brainstorming and sharing discussion; other times the requirement to think, plan, write and summarize is what makes learning most effective for an individual.

Back-end (support and infrastructure)

  1. Provide faculty support services specifically related to teaching via an electronic system and assure appropriate training for faculty who teach using technology. Further, the organization should provide adequate equipment, software and communications to faculty for interaction with students, institutions, and other faculty.
  2. Ensure distributed learning policies of the organization are clear concerning ownership of materials, faculty compensation, copyright issues, and utilization of revenue derived from the creation and production of materials used in distributed learning courses.
  3. Ensure students can access technical support on how to use and troubleshoot technology, in particular readily available technical support for extended hours, quick response time from help desk staff and access to up-to-date and compatible technology/software.
  4. Ensure students can access adequate academic and/or tutorial support services, including assistance with learning strategies and writing skills. While access to academic support services is necessary, the role of instructors was seen as much more critical for distributed students.
  5. Full participation is key to the engagement and enjoyment of learners.

Barriers or issues important in DL/online learning environments

  • DL demands a standard level of hardware and internet connection speeds for both individual users and institutions. Ensuring your organization is ready for the change is essential. It’s important to be upfront and to discuss with staff and learners the disruptions they might experience as well as consider conducting trials before a tool is rolled out on a larger scale.
  • Lack of a clear strategy for the development of e-learning is a real barrier to success. Ideally, a strategy should be mapped out a clear vision of how distributed learning should develop.

Needs Analysis for Proposed DL program in Workplace

An example of creating a distributed learning program in my past workplace is an online training site I created for a marketing team for Selkirk College.

There was not enough time or resource to have all the staff sit through training together so I was intended for each team member to take on their own, in their free time in their schedules.

Target Audience

Marketing and administrative staff for the college who are required to put images on the college website.


I evaluated the various technologies available with our resources for working with the group. The requirements were:

  • Ability to change content quickly and easily by content provider
  • Ability to access content at all hours from both home and at work
  • A resource site for staff to access after the training
  • Easily understood content using various tools such as text, pictures and video
  • Tools to test the learning and provide an evaluation of the skills acquired by the student

Supports Needed For Stakeholders

  • Photoshop software
  • Computer and internet access

Technology of the Week

Diigo…good research tool that can be utilized by instructors to evaluate students’ research and note taking skills. We can observe the research in progress and make comments and notes to the student during the process. It also enables better collaboration on information for any group…you can build a group knowledge repository for your class, where each group member can add and subscribe to it, and browse and search it. They can interact with on-the-page annotations…while reading the same Wikipedia article, and commenting and discussing right on the page. Not too bad.

5111 Wk 2 – Distributed Learning

What am I seeing out there about Distributed Learning?

Distributed Learning is a fairly new term to me…possibly used other terms like online learning, web-based learning, virtual learning, eLearning, open education, distance education and even blended learning (part online/distance and part onsite).  There seem to be various definitions available from various sources…just to name a few.

  • The BC Ministry of Education defines that Distributed Learning (DL) takes place when a student is primarily at a distance from the teacher, whether he/she is at home; or connected to teachers from another learning facility.
  • Learn BC outlines the difference of Distributed Learning from traditional learning is ‘in how courses are delivered – at a distance from the traditional classroom. Many can be completed online, while others use a combination of online and print materials.
  • (M. Ally, 2008) focuses on the learner/learning process in his definition of Distributed Learning is “the use of the Internet to access learning materials; to interact with the content, instructor and other learners; and to obtain support during the learning process, in order to acquire knowledge, to construct personal meaning, and to grow from the learning experience.” 
  • (Matheos & Archer, 2004) base their model on blending a choice of appropriate technologies with aspects of campus-based delivery, open learning systems and distance education. They define a distributed learning environment as a ‘learner-centered approach to education, which integrates a number of technologies to enable opportunities for activities and interaction in both asynchronous and real-time modes’.

Perspective of Personal Interest Regarding Distributed Learning

A perspective I appreciated was From Distance Education to Distributed Learning Thriving Surviving by K Matheos who believes that ‘Distributed learning combines the most advanced forms of distance learning technologies with aspects of conventional, campus-based education. Because the new technology requires radical rethinking about how to administer and use it most effectively, this transformation presents both a great opportunity and a considerable threat to campus-based, research-intensive universities. For specialized distance learning institutions such as Athabasca University, it presents the opportunity to move from their former position on the fringes of higher education into a much more central role.

My education includes a distributed learning model of online and on-campus sessions at Royal Roads University, so I particularly find this opinion interesting. I experienced pushback in the late 1990’s and early 2000 when I finished my schooling, from people who were not convinced of the effectiveness of online or distributed education. To see opinions that this model has moved towards a central role in education today is very satisfying as I believe it is the future for education.

I believe that, as Matheos explains, that ‘For university students, distributed learning is becoming important in order for them to meet their learning goals. It allows them more choice and flexibility along with opportunities to learn new and important communication skills necessary for work in the global networked environment.

Distributed Learning Concept Map

It would appear that DL has a broad definition, and encompasses other commonly used terms like those seen in green above, within its definition.

I found the definition by Matheos & Archer of ‘learner-centered approach to education, which integrates a number of technologies to enable opportunities for activities and interaction in both asynchronous and real-time modes’ resonated with me. I don’t really think my interpretation of DL has changed much during my research but has been enhanced by further understanding it’s components and subtleties.

Potatoes or Potaaaahtos…does it matter?

There is definitely a difference in DL terminology that is linked to different educational organizations and contexts and this could be very confusing. Having a consistent language and definition amongst all the organizations would decrease the lack of transferability amongst the organizations. This could be particularly important in an example where a model of in class and synchronous online, in my opinion, is much superior to simply asynchronous, individual online learning.

Other student posts I chose to comment in…
As my personal situation has my work delayed beyond the course deadline, I will be asynchronously commenting on my fellow students. Here are the two comments I submitted:

5111 Class…Like To Introduce Myself

Hi all,

Want to introduce myself to the class…some of us are already familiar with each other but there are some new names in the list.

I am currently taking 5111 and 5101…just finishing off the 5151 from the summer, so I am up to my eyeballs in online teaching & learning. Quite exciting stuff. I am excited about everything in my online teaching and learning journey and am looking forward to dedicating time towards learning all about the interesting technologies and how they are being used. You can read some of my background story in my other introduction.

…Creating learning communities, cooperation vs collaboration and designing authentic activities.

My goals for the course are better understand the field of distributed learning and best practices for it’s use. I am really unfamiliar with the field of distributed learning and it’s potential, although I feel fairly confident in learning new technological tools.

I had to look up the difference between distributed learning and online learning…as I really am not comfortable defining it.  I have been looking up distributed learning more and realize it is an instructional model that involves using various information technologies (video or audio conferencing, satellite broadcasting, and Web-based multimedia formats) to help students learn. It is also known as computer-mediated instruction. In this regard, I am interested in areas such as video production that will help people learn computer programs, use the web or their software in their jobs etc. I have been making videos in my job currently to help educate staff of the importance of some new practices etc.

I am quite comfortable in an online environment and using technology but find that I don’t feel as confident as I did before the courses, lol. I am learning so many new technologies that require patience with the learning curve…I guess I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know.

My expectations for this course are to enlighten me to the many possibilities of distributed learning and to find methods of teaching and communicating that I haven’t even imagined yet.

I have been a part of a couple learning communities in my experience and believe they are essential to the learning process. They help you consider other perspectives and to have an opportunity to think of what your learning through someone else’s eyes, rather than just your own. In school I have been part of a couple of different cohorts going through a program as well as in a leadership program. It has been quite helpful through my academic and professional growth. I will continue to seek out learning communities as I feel they bring value to their members.